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Friday, February 7, 2014

Inside the Old Post Office/Soon-to-Be PNCA Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

You might already be aware that the Pacific Northwest College of Art is in the midst of an impressive expansion (here's my post on the new dorms from back in August), or that part of it includes Portland's original US Post Office, the grand old lady at 511 NW Broadway that I, at least, had never been inside of until yesterday, when the construction crew let me borrow one of their hard hats and check out the in-progress space.

Built in 1916-18, the building has, obviously, a ton of history, and that level of architectural detail that nobody seems to have the money to ever, ever do anymore. The West side of the building is currently a parking lot, but when the building reopens as the school's Arlene and Harold
Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, this is the side where the main entrance will be (opposite from the original main on Broadway). Eventually, that block is due to become an extension of the park blocks, which will give it a lovely campus vibe. Inside, much of the building has been protected as historical, so the huge, grand front hallway retains all its sumptuous detail. This ground floor will eventually hold the PNCA admissions office, gallery (so stoked to add this to the First Thursday circuit), and a black box theater.

The upstairs is significantly plainer but still cool, especially the 18 giant walk-in safes that came with the building and are going to stay (I think they'd make good dark rooms for a History of Photography class or maybe just really dramatic coat closets). (Also found in the building: a room filled with American flags. Apparently, even after the building was no longer in use, a maintenance guy still had to come in to lower the flags to half-mast at the appropriate occasions.) The solid wood doors and huge, functional windows are all staying, though many of the rooms will be opened up to make larger classrooms and studios. On the lower, northern side of the building are a plethora of skylights that have been sitting covered. Having them open, creating a light-filled atrium is going to be pretty impressive, to say the least.

They just dont make ceilings like they used to
  • They just don't make ceilings like they used to

Upstairs: lots of good doors, a little rubble
  • Upstairs: lots of good doors, a little rubble

Destined to be a park block... someday
  • Destined to be a park block... someday

One of the 18 safes
  • One of the 18 safes

A hallway upstairs.
  • A hallway upstairs.

The building has epic views on all four sides
  • The building has epic views on all four sides

IMG_1877.jpg

Skylights lying in wait
  • Skylights lying in wait

The grand entrance
  • The grand entrance

Eventually this will be the admissions office and, toward the back, the gallery
  • Eventually this will be the admissions office and, toward the back, the gallery

IMG_1890.jpg

IMG_1891.jpg

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